University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
Title "Using Court Records for Research, Teaching, and Policymaking: The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse"
Date 2006
Author Margo Schlanger & Denise Lieberman
Author Institution Washington University in St. Louis
Author Role Faculty
Paper [ PDF ]
Abstract In this brief article, we hope to demonstrate that court records have always been vital, and irreplaceable, sources for historical research. Made more accessible, as much broader use for legal researchers; for historians, political scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists; for students and teachers; and for advocates and policymakers. In Part I of this Article, we present a model for such useā€”the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, a new web-based resource built primarily around digitized court records, sponsored by Washington University in St. Louis.3 Accessible at, the Clearinghouse collects, indexes, and makes publicly available for research and observation a growing universe of civil rights cases and the settlements and court orders those cases have produced, which regulate government and private entities in myriad important ways.

It is the absence of good alternatives that makes court records so important. In Part II, we explain why other types of records cannot substitute for litigation files, discussing the shortcomings of other sources of information about litigation. Part III concludes by responding to a proposal that federal court records in non-trial cases be destroyed; we argue that trial status is an inappropriate proxy for the importance of a given piece of litigation. Trials are simply dispositions that turn on facts, as opposed to dispositions that turn on law (non-trial adjudication), or negotiation; trials are neither more nor less important than dismissals, summary judgments, settlements, and all the other methods of ending litigation. Moreover, trials are growing ever rarer, putting increasing pressure on the poor proxy.
Source U.M.K.C. Law Review
Citation 75 U.M.K.C. L. Rev. 153 (2006)

This Resource Relates To
person Schlanger, Margo (MO)
person Schlanger, Margo (DC)
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